Choosing the Perfect Backpack

Choosing the Perfect Backpack

Choosing the Perfect Backpack

Choosing the Perfect Backpack
Choosing the Perfect Backpack

Having the wrong backpack can make any hiking or camping adventure miserable. When out in the backcountry, you are living out of your backpack and it will be carrying everything you need for survival, so it had better be up to the job.

One of the biggest mistakes people new to camping and hiking make is it to over pack, and then somewhere along the trail they are looking to see what items they can discard. Most experts will tell that you should not attempt to carry more than 25 percent of your body weight and up to 30 percent if you have been conditioned to carry a pack. For example, a 150-pound person should be able to carry 37.5 pounds and a 200-pound person should be able to carry 50 pounds. Now that you know what weight you can carry, you can begin looking at packs.

However, buying a bigger pack than what you need is not a bad thing, just remember just because you have the room does not mean you have to fill it. It is better to have the option so at some point down the road you can add more items if you need to, leave yourself options and after getting better conditioned you may find you can carry more after all.

These are only approximations and before venturing out make sure you can handle the weight, and remember there is a difference in carrying a pack on flat even terrain versus hilly uneven terrain out in the wilds.

Once loaded the pack should hold the items securely. You do not want a bulky sack banging around on your back and all the items bunched up at the bottom. Your pack should have kidney pads and a waist belt so your hips can help take up the weight and to prevent the pack from hitting your lower back as you move. You pack should have pockets and compartments where various items can be secured so they do not all end up at the bottom.

The pack should have some type of internal frame system so the pack holds its shape once packed. The pack should not extend beyond your body more than a few inches on either side once shouldered and fully packed.

Outer pockets are ideal for maps and water bottles that need to be accessed frequently. You should have straps on the exterior of the pack for securing a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag on either the top or bottom. However, you do not want items stacked so high on the top of the pack that your head hits on the items while walking.

You will want a pack that is waterproof or at least water resistant. Not many backpacks can take being dumped overboard and left in the water if you are rafting or canoeing. You should however expect it to protect your supplies during a rain or snowstorm long enough so you can get a poncho on or find cover.

Fit the backpack before purchasing. If you go to an outdoor store, you can have a pack fitted and typically, weights are added so you know how the pack feels when loaded. There are various sized packs so it is important that it fits well around the shoulders and does not hang below the waist to where it would interfere with walking. Once loaded adjust the shoulder straps and a quality pack will allow you to adjust the straps while the pack is shouldered.

Backpack for Survival


Backpack for Survival


Before you can put together a survival backpack, you first need the right backpack. Having the right pack is important because, after all it will contain all the essential items that will keep you alive in a survival situation. Your pack should be water resistant or even waterproof. It should have kidney straps for securing the pack around your waist, along with ample padding. The waist straps will reduce the weight on your shoulders, and transfer it to your hips, and it keeps the pack from banging against your lower back as you walk.

People tend to overload their packs and this is problematic. A few hours along the trail and they have to decide what goes and what stays. They simply cannot handle the weight. Be honest with yourself and realistic. Your bag should be around 50 pounds. You should have about 25lb/11kg of water, and the rest food and gear. Water weighs 8.5lb/3.8kg per gallon and the recommended daily amount per person is one gallon. To lessen the weight on your shoulders and to allow more room for other items use a weight bearing web belt for around your waist. Use canteens that have pouches that can attach to the belt. Have one canteen on each side, and as you use the water from the canteens replenish from the pack. Do not carry water in gallon containers, because this makes the weight distribution difficult.

A note about water, the average adult requires between 2.0 and 2.5 quarts/liters of water daily just to maintain proper hydration levels. In extreme heat, you may require up to one gallon of fluids daily. The one-gallon a day recommendation under normal conditions considers personal hygiene requirements such as sponge baths and oral care. Do not forgo personal hygiene if water is available, this will help prevent illnesses by reducing the spread of bacteria.

Your pack should also have straps either on the top or bottom to attach a sleeping bag, poncho, tarps or a tightly rolled nylon tent. This frees up room inside the pack and distributes the weight evenly. If you do not have, straps use paracord to attach rolled items.

Military issue Alice Pack this pack can hold up to 80 pounds of gear and comes with a metal frame. The pack can be worn with or without the frame. Your pack should have straps and/or buckles on the harness for attaching flashlights, compass, knives, machetes or hatchets.

Pack Essentials

Your priorities are shelter, water, fire and nutrition you cannot survive without these. It is assumed you would have cold weather clothing on if it is cold and if the weather is temperate then add a cold weather coat, gloves and hat for changes in the weather. You will not have enough room to pack to many extra clothes, but you must have extra socks.

Socks will need to be changed quite frequently regardless of the weather. Sweating feet will cause blisters and if your feet become wet, they must be dried as soon as possible to prevent trench foot. Trench foot is a medical condition caused by prolonged exposure to cold wet conditions. If left untreated this condition can cause permanent damage and result in gangrene and amputation. Trench foot is not a result of frostbite. The temperature does not have to be below freezing to develop trench foot.

Water of course is a priority and along with your supply, you should have water purification tablets, and coffee filters so you can collect, filter and purify a water source along the trail.

Avoid canned foods because of the weight, instead consider Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s). The packages are lightweight and are not easily damaged so they can be packed tight inside the bag. Each meal is roughly 1,220 calories each and the daily recommendation for an adult is two meals a day. You can also carry beef jerky and protein bars. Avoid high sodium and high sugar content foods.
Carry a quality fixed bladed knife many experts will tell you a quality knife is one of the most important items you can carry. You should also have a multi-tool knife.

Make sure you have rain gear such as a poncho and it must be large enough to cover you and your pack when shouldered. A quality poncho can also be used as an emergency shelter. Carry a small nylon tent if you have the room.

Have a sleeping bag, appropriate for the season, and keep it tightly rolled and secured outside the pack. Have two thermal blankets so one can act as a ground cover. Carry one or more nylon tarps that can be rolled tightly and secured outside the pack. Use for emergency shelter or ground cloths.
Carry fire-starting tools such as a magnesium stick, and Ferro rod in addition to matches. Have a camp axe, machete and/or a folding wood saw. Have nylon rope, fishing line and assorted hooks and tackle. Carry 20-24 gauge wire for animal snares, general bindings and gear repair.

Have a first aid kit along with personal hygiene items such as hand sanitizer, bath wipes and oral care items. Carry extra bandanas, sunglasses, flashlight, and personal protection. Consider a collapsible walking stick as well.